If you're just coming here for the first time, uh... you're late. The site is no longer updated daily (see HERE for the story). But it's still kicking 1-2x a week, and it's better late than never! Before reading any of the "reviews", you should read the intro, the FAQ, the MOVIES I HAVE ALREADY SEEN list, and if you want, the glossary of genre terms and "What is Horror?", which explains some of the "that's not horror!" entries. And to keep things clean, all off topic posts are re-dated to be in JANUARY 2007 (which was before I began doing this little project) once they have 'expired' (i.e. are 10 days old).

Due to many people commenting "I have to see this movie!" after a review, I have decided to add Amazon links within the reviews (they are located at the bottom), as well as a few links to the Horror Movie A Day Store around the page, hopefully non-obstructively. Amazon will also automatically link things they find relevant, so there might be a few random links in a review as well. If they become annoying, I'll remove the functionality. Right now I'm just kind of amused what they come up with (for example, they highlighted 'a horror movie' in the middle of one review and it links to, of all things, the 50 Chilling Movies Budget Pack!!!).

Last but not least, some reviews contain spoilers (NOTE - With a few exceptions, anything written on the back of the DVD or that occurs less than halfway through the movie I do NOT consider a spoiler). I will be adding 'spoiler alerts' for these reviews as I go through and re-do the older reviews (longtime readers may notice that there is now a 'show more' which cleaned up the main page, as well as listing the source of the movie I watched, i.e. Theaters, DVD, TV) to reflect the new format. This is time consuming, so bear with me.

Thanks for coming by and be sure to leave comments, play nice, and as always, watch Cathy's Curse.


FTP: The Return of the Vampire (1943)

MARCH 17, 2019


When Scream Factory announced they were releasing The Return of the Vampire, I didn't think much of it, because I thought I saw it already and didn't love it all that much. Turns out I was thinking of Mark of the Vampire (which also had Bela Lugosi), and had never actually seen this one! He didn't play a vampire as often as you might think (in fact, in Mark he was only pretending to be one), so getting to see him, still more or less in his prime, don the Dracula-ish guise again in a film I didn't even really know existed was a real treat. As a bonus, the movie has a werewolf too, and the makeup isn't far off from Wolfman's, so it's like getting the "Dracula vs Wolfman" movie we were denied since Universal never actually made one.

It's hard not to think about the Universal films when watching it; even discounting the makeup and Bela's appearance, the other characters are cut from the same cloth (professors, doctors, young ladies who catch the eye of Drac- er, "Armand Tesla") and has the same general vibe from start to finish. The biggest difference is the setting; while the Dracula (and Wolfman and Frankenstein) films take place in the 19th century, this one - apart from a lengthy prologue - takes place in the (then) present day of 1943. World War II (specifically bomber planes) even plays a part in the proceedings, something I'm not sure I've seen before in this particular brand of monster movie, which I found kind of fascinating and wish it was a bigger part of the film (perhaps because I'm still disappointed by the underutilized horror element of Overlord). I suspect the low budget forced them to keep it to a minimum, but still - you get to see a vampire vs werewolf climax interrupted by a Nazi bomber!

I also liked how the werewolf was used, as a sort of slave to the vampire. As with Larry Talbot, the cursed guy (Andreas) is a sympathetic monster, forced to do evil deeds by his master but struggling to break free of his control. Naturally, the cops think he's the real villain, and there's only one guy who suspects Lugosi's character of being up to no good, making it engaging even though we in the audience are always a step or two ahead of everyone. There's a real villain to take down and a relatively innocent man to redeem - Wolfman had no real villain and Dracula had no anti-hero, so it really does kind of offer a perfect mix of the two hoscenarios.

Also if you prefer Frankenstein, they got you covered there too - a guy talks to the camera and throws you out of the damn thing.

Since it's 70+ years old everyone involved is dead but that didn't stop Scream Factory from offering a special edition with a whopping three commentaries by film historians, including Troy Howarth who I'm rapidly becoming a fan of (they use him a lot). The others are fine; one focuses more on werewolf movies and the other on Lugosi in general, but if you want something more specific to this film than Howarth's is the one to go with. The transfer is also quite nice; it looks better than some of the genuine Universal ones if you ask me. Here's hoping SF puts out more of the under-represented flicks from the classic era; I know they've been stepping up their game with the 1950s monster movies (I just got Deadly Mantis, in fact) and they'll obviously always be dishing out the 70s/80s fare, but there are a number of interesting gems from the 30s and 40s that fell through the cracks (or are indeed in public domain) that deserve the polishing.

What say you?


Next Of Kin (1982)

MARCH 13, 2019


I've often said the best way to go into any movie (especially a horror one) is to know almost nothing about it, but this proved to be a minor issue for Next of Kin, because all I knew was what the Blu-ray cover showed me - a little girl with a blank expression standing in front of a house, with a tagline that there was something evil in it. So: evil child movie, right? Well after like 25 minutes (which indeed introduced a kid, albeit not the same one on the cover) I started getting suspicious, so I quickly looked at Letterboxd or something and saw "slasher", which perked my excitement back up. Slashers are even more my jam than evil kid movies! But uh... it's not a slasher either.

No, it's kind of a modern "Old Dark House" kind of movie with a little giallo flavor for good measure, without a lot of action and a body count that only really ramps up in the final 15 minutes (and even then it's mostly off-screen stuff). So if I had done any kind of research whatsoever I probably would have known that, and settled in for it accordingly; perhaps it is better to know at least a little about what you're about to commit 90 minutes of your life to see after all! That said, I actually enjoyed the movie once I readjusted my expectations once again, finding myself charmed and lulled by its slow pace and off-kilter presentation.

Our hero is Linda (Jacki Kerin), whose mom (well, mum - it's an Australian movie) has recently passed away and left her in charge of her mansion-like rest home for the elderly, something that she is willing to do but doesn't seem particularly excited about either. But the motions she plans to go through are interrupted when one of the residents is found dead in the bathtub, followed by a series of unusual occurrences like someone leaving all of the faucets/spouts running, or a man seemingly following her while she's on dates with her handsome boyfriend (John Jarratt! I'm always amused on the rare occasions I see him so young). Then she starts going through her mother's diaries and discovers that there might be something fishy going on.

Now, you might read all of that and assume that I'm describing the first twenty minutes or so, but it's actually the other way around - there's only about twenty minutes LEFT after that part. It's kind of a casual mystery, with Linda only rarely showing any kind of fear or trepidation about what is going on. I'm not sure if it's just Kerin's acting choices or the way it was written, but I was rather bemused by how laid back she was about the potential murderer in her midst. Once she finds a bloodied corpse she kinda goes into more traditional theatrics (running, screaming, getting banged up a bit) and the murderer is revealed, but since the character had little part to play in the story it barely even registered who it was at first. It's more a "Oh good, it's NOT John Jarratt!" kind of moment if anything, and of course that only applies to modern viewers who primarily know him as Mick Taylor.

But this kind of went along with the movie's strange atmosphere, giving it a bit of that "late night TV" vibe I enjoy (similar to last month's Possum, another one that wasn't exactly a roller coaster). The location (Overnewton Castle in Melbourne; it now hosts weddings) looks like it was designed specifically for this kind of movie, and while they don't factor into the proceedings all that much the old folks give it a strange energy of its own. There's a bit near the end where Linda is trying to get one of the old guys to safety as the killer makes their way around the halls, and the dude clearly has no idea what's going on but is just doing what he's told (albeit very slowly and, like her in the previous scenes, without any kind of panic whatsoever), so it's kind of funny but also unsettling in a way.

Indeed, there's quite a bit of unusually placed humor all the way until the final moments. My particular favorite example has to be when Linda runs to Jarratt's character for help, finding him nodding off with a beer at a meeting for the local volunteer fire brigade. He's sitting all the way against the wall, so she's trying to get his attention/get him to come with her without disrupting everyone else, failing miserably (and when he does finally wake up he's just as baffled as everyone else). Then she tries to get outside with him to explain and the door is locked - and throughout all of this the poor fire chief is trying to tell all these guys how to do their job. It's very dry, but that's the kind of humor I find myself enjoying more and more these days - less reliant on punchlines and visual gags, and more just the irony of the situation.

So, as you might expect, this is not something you should track down if you're hoping for Australian's answer to the early '80s slasher golden era - the term only gets used because there isn't much else that would work and people love to label things. Giallo comes a bit closer (aided by the somewhat ill-fitting at times but still enjoyable score by Klaus Schulze) since Kerin keeps having childhood flashbacks (it's her younger self on the cover; still unsure why they opted for that, especially since Kerin is quite lovely and would have probably attracted more eyeballs to the poster) and the plot revolves around something a parent did, but if any Argento movie was invoked, it'd be Suspiria, not one of his gialli like Deep Red or Tenebrae. In other words, not for everyone, but will appeal to a particular breed of moviegoer that will shine to things mostly on the strength of how little it "delivers" on what you'd expect it to.

If you're already a fan, fear not - Severin's Blu-ray follows the "rules" exactly, offering a pair of commentaries (one with Jarratt and Kerin; the other with director Tony Williams), some interviews taken from Not Quite Hollywood (which featured the film), a rundown of a deleted action beat from the climax that further explained the fate of its villain (the original footage is lost but they had a few frames to show off), some thoughts from the awesome Kier-La Janisse, etc. They're all worth a look/listen (if you liked the film, of course) but my favorite might have been the trip to the shooting locations as they look today, as I found it kind of fascinating in spots. For example the rusted out car that Linda runs by in one scene is STILL THERE, nearly forty years later, even though the area around it looks fairly different. And it was good to see that aside from some touch up work and signs for their wedding business ("Bridal suites this way" kinda stuff) the house is kind of pretty much the same, with a lot of the exterior decor (a gazebo, a well, etc) intact. Bonus: after already deciding it was my favorite bonus feature, the credits for it popped up and it was produced by my boy Jamie Blanks!

It's easy to see why the film has remained obscure; it's kind of hard to label, the mystery isn't particularly involving, and far too much happens off-screen. But watching late at night, when it's been cold and windy here (we have shit insulation, so if it's windy outside it's pretty much windy inside too), it kinda gave me a bit of a proper fall vibe, which of course is very much welcome when we're almost exactly as far removed from Halloween as possible. It's one or two memorable moments short of being a must-see, but for those who like their horror to be atmospheric and just a bit "off" (example: the heroine spends a large chunk of the film's closing moments making a pyramid out of sugar cubes), I think you'll be happy to discover it.

What say you?


FTP: Feral (2017)

MARCH 5, 2019


One thing I like seeing in zombie movies - but rarely do - is a finite number of undead threatening our heroes. For obvious reasons, most present an insurmountable swarm of the damn things, and end with any real resolution to the threat; I mean, if it worked just fine for Romero (a few times, in fact) there's no reason anyone else should feel the need to bother coming up with a conclusive... er, conclusion. Feral is one of those rare exceptions; there's only one zombie at the start and naturally over the course of the film he creates a few others, but unless I missed something they're all dispatched by the end, case closed!

Then again it's not presented as a usual zombie movie. Don't get me wrong, it most certainly is: the undead creature our heroes encounter bites one of them and they die, only to come back as a similar creature, and others that are bitten eventually turn into them as well. But at first glance it seems to be more of a "monster in the woods" kind of movie, with six campers getting deep enough into the woods where going back to their car instantly won't be easy, and the zombie thing itself looks more like one of the Descent lurkers than any green-faced kinda shambling "walker" you might picture. Bonus, the characters know what zombies are (from movies - they don't BELIEVE in them) which keeps the exposition about what they are/how they work limited to what specifically makes them different than whatever you see on Walking Dead or what have you. I can appreciate that.

If only the rest of the movie was as novel! Our characters are more thinly drawn than slasher victims, without an iota of their usual ability to be memorable. They're led by Scout Taylor Compton, who refers to herself as a doctor even though she's still in med school, and part of the thrust is the non-bitten people squabbling over whether or not they should reduce the risk to themselves by offing the infected, something Compton is vehemently opposed to. If this was some kind of Crimson Tide scenario where we the viewer didn't know "what the message said" (in this case, what would happen or maybe even if someone was actually bit or just injured) there might be some more punch to it, but as anyone watching has seen several thousand zombie stories by now, it makes it quite hard to side with her.

I'll give it this though: they don't waste much time getting to the scary stuff; one of the campers gets bit in the first ten minutes or so, sparing us too much of their personal drama (at least no one's cheating, but a jealous ex isn't that much of an improvement). Interestingly, the movie kills off the males of the group first, but with the surviving women making such dumb decisions it doesn't quite land as a feminist movie either, so there's not really any benefit to it. To be fair, it's competently made, the zombie makeup is good, and it never overstayed its welcome or anything - it's a perfectly "fine" movie, in other words. But there's nothing in it you'll remember twenty minutes later either; indeed, my wife actually watched a chunk of it with me before going to bed (I honestly can't remember the last time she partook in "Horror Movie A Day" type activity, as she usually has too much work to do) and the next morning when she asked how it turned out, I had trouble answering a few of her more specific questions. No permanent spot on the shelf for you, Feral!

What say you?


FTP: What We Become (2015)

FEBRUARY 28, 2019


Since I started "From The Pile" I started going through emails to see if I could figure out when it arrived, because I'm kind of curious which disc has been sitting there the longest waiting for me to get around to watching it. What We Become is from fall of 2016, which (sadly) isn't even close to the oldest, but what's interesting is that the longer I waited, the better the movie came off. Had I watched it then, I'd be pretty bored, because at that time I had only recently given up on Fear the Walking Dead and the film is basically built around the same basic idea: How does a family (as opposed to the usual motley group) react to a zombie outbreak as it occurs?

But now it's been a few years since I saw anything like that, so I was more or less engaged by it even if it wasn't doing a single thing I hadn't seen before. To be fair, it's apparently Denmark's first ever zombie movie (!) so maybe they weren't privy to all these other movies/shows we have access to, but it's hard to try to keep that in mind as you watch - we gotta meet halfway on these things. Even things like "if you get bit you turn" come off like things that need to be explained (at one point it's practically presented as a twist), which I thought we were long past by now. The actors are good and the characters are realistic, but they're hamstrung by the script's insistence on treating their scenario as wholly unique.

Worse, its most interesting element keeps getting sidelined; the father of the family unit is having trouble connecting with his teenaged son, and tries to shield him from the reality of what's going on the same he is doing for his much younger daughter - it's like a "I don't want my little boy to grow up" taken to the worst extreme. But with an overabundance of neighbor characters who eventually shack up with them and focus on someone we know is a goner from the stupid flash-forward opening (I know it's a four year old movie, but for what it's worth: STOP DOING THESE!) this intriguing and somewhat touching plot strand is largely discarded as the zombie hordes get harder to control. The two characters never even have much of a final scene together, making the early parts showing their strained relationship kind of a waste, ultimately.

In fact the film as a whole is better when the zombie thing is still largely unknown. The little teases we get in the first half hour or so are pretty great: people getting sick, a car accident that the police don't even stop for because there's a bigger emergency elsewhere, etc. And there's some minor "zombie procedural" elements that I enjoyed seeing, like how the military folks have to come by and retrieve waste and resupply people with water/food, shown as an annoyance akin to having to move your car for a snowplow or something. But once the outbreak gets to traditional ZOMBIE MOVIE! proportions, it's the same old stuff we've seen a bunch of times, though thankfully the focus remains on the family (and their neighbors) with minimal intrusion from the military types or "evil humans". Indeed, the father ends up being the "villain" at one point, when he resorts to holding a gun on a woman who is after the same supplies he is.

If they made this more about the dad and the extremes he went to in order to protect his family (and maybe patch things up with his son) this could have been more interesting, but alas it misses that "must-see" mark and settles for being just another zombie flick, of use mainly to those who can never get their fill of such things. For everyone else, it's pretty good, but your excitement will depend on how long it had been since you watched something like this, I suspect.

What say you?

P.S. If you have epilepsy or other issues with strobing lights, please be warned that the title at the top (which is repeated at the end, for some reason) is presented in a full screen flashing letter format (think Enter the Void). There's nothing like that in the film itself, and it suggests something more extreme than the narrative actually offers, so I have no idea what they were thinking. Just wanted to do my part in warning folks - the disc packaging really should be doing that for us.


Possum (2018)

FEBRUARY 24, 2019


I haven't memorized it or anything (in fact I only saw it once) but I absolutely loved Garth Marenghi's Darkplace when I watched its all-too-brief run (six episodes) a few years back, and was thus excited to see what creator Matthew Holness would come up with for his first feature length film, assuming it would have a similar horror/comedy blend. But I quickly realized that Possum was nothing like Darkplace; it'd be like if you watched Elephant Man or The Fly expecting the usual Mel Brooks hijinks, and if anything the film might play better to those who have no idea who Holness is at all. The film has not one note of identifiable humor, and Holness (who also starred in Darkplace, for those uninitiated) remains behind the camera; the only time you'll see him is in the behind the scenes footage on the DVD.

Instead, the film puts Sean Harris in nearly every frame (and often by himself) as Philip, an ex-puppeteer who may or may not be a murderer. The title refers not to the animal, but the name he's given a puppet of a spider that he seems unhealthily attached to, carrying it around with him at all times (though thankfully concealed in a bag) even though he seems to be afraid of it. The nature of this puppet and his connection to it is one of the film's many mysteries, most of which aren't fully spelled out for the audience before the credits roll, so if you're an "I need answers" type this is most certainly not the film for you. It can occasionally be hard to tell what's a dream/hallucination and what is really happening, and there are repeated images that suggest the narrative isn't chronological to boot. Add in the long stretches of silence and other "arty" touches and you have a movie that makes something like The Witch look as simple as a slasher flick.

But that's the narrative. On a "this movie is freaking me out" level, it's a winner - the movie isn't even a full 90 minutes long but it's got enough nightmare fuel to last a week (indeed, it gave me a legit nightmare; a low-key one to be fair, but still). It probably didn't help his (clearly not high) budget, but Holness smartly shot on film, which goes a long way into helping evoke the 70s thrillers he was emulating. On one of the interviews on the DVD he says it's a movie that exists for late night viewing, something he'd want people to stumble upon and be unsettled by - he certainly pulled that off, and I don't think it would really work if it was shot digitally (the recent Ghost Stories was also aiming for this specific feel, but missed in part to its unmistakably modern digital photography). Even the titles recall films of that era; if not for Sean Harris starring and the very, very rare non-period detail (like a television, the odd car, or a day-player's outfit) I could see someone being fooled into thinking it really was some lost indie from 1977.

Harris is terrific, by the way. He's probably most famous as the chilling villain from the last couple of Mission Impossible films, and it's a huge departure from those - he's kind of pathetic and awkward, a far cry from his calculating Solomon Lane. I almost didn't even recognize him at first, and given his reported "method" acting ways I don't envy what he probably put himself through to achieve his performance. It's not a flattering role in any respect, and again he's pretty much the only person in the movie (besides his uncle, who he lives with), so it couldn't have been a fun or easy shoot for him (or anyone around him, depending on how strictly he followed the "rules" of this approach) if he had to remain in character for so much time. Familiar character actor Alun Armstrong is also quite good as his uncle, who seems to be responsible for some of Philip's timidness (to what extent, of course, is one of the film's mysteries), and is pretty much the only other person in the movie who appears more than once. If Holness were to beef up his role a bit, it could even work as a stage production since the uncle never leaves the house (and Philip never seems to stray too far from it).

So as you might have figured out for yourself by now, the movie requires some patience, perhaps a bit TOO much at times, as it's often fairly repetitive. Holness based it on one of his short stories, and the "expand to feature length" seams show, particularly in the middle of the film which seems to be stuck in a cycle of scenes where Philip decides to rid himself of the puppet by ditching it somewhere, only for it to come back (or even retrieve it himself). Since I was already creeped out early, this padded middle section ended up deflating some of that unsettled feeling as opposed to ramping it up, leaving me hoping for a big shock to the system that would send me out feeling - at the very least - as disturbed as I was at the 20-25 minute mark. Your mileage can/will vary of course, since everyone scares differently, but I couldn't help but think maybe taking a page from Audition or something like that and leaving horror out of it for a bit would have helped maintain that unnerved feeling throughout.

Otherwise, as these things go I'd put it up there with Soft For Digging and older fare like Haunts and Magic in the "what is UP with this person?" low-key, methodically-paced horror, and as Holness intended it gives off plenty of that late night syndicated viewing vibe that unfortunately doesn't really exist anymore. Movies like Let's Scare Jessica to Death or Malatesta's Carnival of Blood similarly seemed designed for that very specific audience, but in those cases the films might have actually been found that way by a number of their fans. The best chance something like this has of being "stumbled upon" would probably be if it ended up on Shudder and someone caught it thanks to their (very cool) "Shudder TV" option, which leaves out the scrolling around for something to choose and just has things running nonstop as a regular TV network would. And those people will get the most out of the film, I think, as they won't have any idea or preconceived notion of its content - everyone else, you need to keep your expectations in check (and your phone out of reach for when you might be tempted to grab it) so that its restrained approach can be allowed to deliver.

What say you?


FTP: Mermaid: Lake of the Dead (2018)

FEBRUARY 22, 2019


I'll give Mermaid: Lake of the Dead this much - despite the familiar (read: WAY OVERUSED) last three words of its title, it's not a zombie movie. Not that we're as inundated with the things as we were in the '00s, but that "of the dead" is always going to suggest such things, so it was like a nice little surprise that it turned out to be something else. Unfortunately, it was actually the *other* thing we got too many of in the previous decade: a vengeful ghost movie! More than once I was reminded of things like Shutter, The Grudge, and (thanks to the watery stuff) The Ring, but without the originality (or scares) of the original versions of those films or the big budget gloss of their remakes. So it just was... you know, THERE.

I mean if you love these kind of things maybe you'll dig it - the mermaid angle (while not quite the usual thing of fairy tales - she just comes from the water) gives it a bit of novelty, and it never gets too slow in its 82 or so minutes. But again, I had my fill of this kind of scary movie, and need something unique to really hook me in (like Unfriended's screen gimmick) or at least a complicated plot like the Whispering Corridors movies to keep my interest. This, on the other hand - well let's put it this way: I watched a chunk of it while on an exercise bike and I found myself glancing at the odometer/calorie/heart rate display far more often than necessary. It had some decent scenes - I particularly liked when a car was driving along when it suddenly began filling up with water (as opposed to one that was actually sinking) - but not enough of them to elevate it beyond "yeah, fine, I guess."

Part of the problem is that the ghost should be more sympathetic than she ever comes across. The backstory is kind of sad, but the ghost is just doing Samara/Sadako kinda things most of the time (often aided with questionable CGI - the teeth effect REALLY needed some work) or setting up jump scares. On the other hand, I was surprised that the guy (named Roma) is a genuinely good dude - his buddies get him some strippers for his bachelor party, but he's like "Ehhhh you guys enjoy I'm gonna go outside" and pretty much races back to his fiance in the morning. Ironically, if he DID stay inside with the strippers he probably would have been safe from the mermaid since she sets her sights on him when he goes outside and takes a dip in the lake where she "lives" (he's a champion swimmer, so it's not too unbelievable). Moral of the story: take the lapdance, don't exercise.

Interestingly, it's a Russian horror film, which we don't get brought over here all that often. But then again, outside of the folk tale it's loosely based on, there's almost nothing in it that makes it distinctly Russian, and since the Blu-ray defaults to English, you might not even realize it unless you pay close enough attention to notice that the voices don't quite match the actors' mouths (though the dub job is above average, I should note). Hopefully Scream Factory keeps looking for foreign horrors to bring us; even if this one isn't exactly a winner it's a step in the right direction, and is a nice change of pace from the library titles that are their bread and butter. I can see the appeal - it's a terrific looking film, accessible despite being foreign, and has just enough traditional terror to sell it to the crowds that eat these things up. But alas, these things just almost never grab me. Now if it was some flesh and blood human wearing a mermaid costume while offing a group of college kids who wronged them... then we'd be cooking.

What say you?


FTP: Emelie (2015)

FEBRUARY 17, 2019


Unlike most "pile" movies I had a legit excuse for putting Emelie off for so long (almost three years): I was warned away from watching it due to my hypersensitivity about kids being in danger after having my own kid. Will wouldn't have even been two yet when this Blu arrived, and I can't remember who exactly told me I shouldn't watch it if I was still getting worked up about these things, but their warning worked: I've come across it a few times over the years and always shook my head, not wanting to deal with whatever parental traumas awaited. But the pile must be destroyed, so - after a quick confirmation that the kid was still safe in bed - into the player it went.

Now, if I was one of those horrible monsters who hired rando babysitters off the internet, I might have gotten worked up about the movie's plot, in which a new babysitter turns out to be a sociopath. But Will is only ever trusted in the hands of people we've known even longer than we've had him, so unless they're playing an extremely long game of 4D chess I don't think any of them will try to disappear with him anytime soon. So I guess that bit of disconnect helped me watch it as I do any normal suspense film, free of setting off my sensitive dad alarms. Maybe if the day ever comes where there's something so extraordinary coming along (Meat Loaf and Jim Steinman performing together? John Carpenter being handed a mic and sitting down with Rob Zombie's Halloween?) that I cannot miss it and my usual babysitters can't help, I'll consider a stranger and maybe then I'll find this movie unwatchable, but for now I was fine.

But don't get me wrong - it was still a very effective chiller, and due to that warning I spent the entire viewing wondering when something horrifying would happen and have me hovering over the stop button, making it an extremely tense experience. There's a scene where the youngest kid (there are three, age range like 4-12 maybe?) gets a hold of a gun and I haven't gotten that worked up at a scene in ages. And with the girl not even trying to hide the fact that she's not right (the parents have barely left before she's making one kid eat an entire box of cookies and letting the youngest one climb on stacked chairs) it gives the movie an unsafe feeling almost right from the start, having me constantly wondering how far it'll go.

It also unfolds a very compressed timeframe; maybe three hours? So it's not quite real time, but close enough that they get a similar effective but without having to strain any credulity (or just bore you) the way most of those experiments unfold. And as a bonus, Emelie (Sarah Bolger from Moth Diaries) has a tragic backstory that evokes just the right amount of sympathy for her so she's not a cartoon villain, but not so much that you ever want her to succeed either - the balance is perfect. The kids are all good too; they're believable enough as siblings, don't do any of that cutesy "wise beyond their years" shit, and - most importantly - they believably go along with the nutty things Emelie asks them to do, because they're young enough to still be in that "do what the adult says, no questions asked" mode. So you can see that they're unsure about it, but worried about getting in trouble or whatever if they don't do what she says.

So it's a perfect "pile" movie, really! It's a good flick that there's no reason to watch again, so I can have the joy of a positive viewing experience but not permanently add to the clutter of my collection! Everyone wins - except for the Dark Sky publicist that expected this review three years ago. Sorry about that.

What say you?


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